Blog Break and Bad Housekeeping Haiku

Hello! Right now school has started, a family reunion is imminent, and Miriam’s Well is going on a much needed hiatus until after Labor Day. I will be answering mail, though. Always looking to interview poets with new books, and publish haiku, tanka, haibun and other Japanese forms. Also, want short prose pieces and musings, memoir, and any look at creative process you’d like share, including events. I’m also interested in short term contributing writers. Is there something you’d like to examine for a while, or cover in detail? Drop me a note.


of five daddy longlegs–
cooler nights

Haiku Chair

Isabel Winson-Sagan transformed my old beat up fish chair into one with a haiku! She reports:

The incredible transformation of my mother’s silly fish chair into…! Well, it’s still a silly fish chair. But now it has poetry! Here are some before and after pics. The text reads:

swim across wallpaper
A kind of happiness”






It looks great on the front porch. Nothing like a little spruce up project to feel good.

The Dentist and The Mama by Devon Miller-Duggan

The Dentist and The Mama

It’s been a while since I wrote about the long road that is my/our care of my
mother. There hasn’t been much to talk about. She’s still here, still physically
sort of healthy, still drifting further into the wormhole of dementia. Still,
still, still. I’ve made some progress, behavior and neuroses-wise and am in a
state of improved patience and kindness, which feels good. It’s been hard being
the center of the world for someone who’s being gradually stripped away of all
of her most charming and engaging traits and left with all the lesser, more
passive-aggressive versions, but I have had several of things happen that have
made things easier on my heart and head. One is that I may have managed a bit of
growing up (still apparently possible at 61, thank God) courtesy of my
therapist, time, my daughters’ prodding and whatever mystery elements go into
whatever constitutes “peace” in a human heart. Another is that I had occasion to
watch a truly vile mother in action—someone actually pathological and
malicious—and it was a bit of a jolt to my self-pity. A third is probably that I
just ran through most of the anger. So I’m less dramatically fraught, which is a
relief to EVERYONE, except my mother who doesn’t actually register any
differences in my behavior since she sort has a goldfish memory these days.

Here she still is, all stubbornness, coy compensatory courtesy, and
Unless her great-grandson is around, at which point she’s close to alive, that’s
about it. Oh, and the truly terrible boredom. It’s awfully hard to alleviate the
boredom of someone who just can’t do so many of the things she used to
enjoy—really follow a narrative, walk on the beach, play cards, listen to music
(a couple of months ago, I put on “The Magic Flute” while I was working on
something in her apartment and she told me to “turn that shit off.” She used to
adore Mozart.) She is getting close to not being able to handle stairs at all,
and has taken to going outside onto the front walk 20 times some days to check
to see whether—well, I don’t exactly know what she’s checking on, but it’s a
little disconcerting how often she’s out there waiting when I get home from work
or errands.

Today we had to go to the dentist. My father was a dentist who worked on his own
family. The result of that is that we have phenomenal dental work and a bit of
PTSD (I use the term carefully) because being stuck in a dental chair with
someone who has gripes to grind while he does impeccable work on you is a weird
experience. A tooth he’d crowned about 40 years ago (he was pretty much the God
of Crown & Bridge, for those of you to whom that means anything) broke off above
the root, which, it turns out, has an abcess. So my mother, who has cared a
great deal about her appearance, is going to be without a lower front tooth,
because, at this stage, the major work involved in replacing that thing would be
much more traumatic than dealing with the bad root and letting the thing go.

Blah, blah, blah, teeth. I’m a dentist’s daughter. I could go on at much greater
length about this mess. It’s only relevant insofar as it will eat much of my
last week before the semester starts, especially when you fold in the podiatrist
appointment and the fact that she desperately needs new glasses. I have a pile
of want-to-do-it work and I am infinitely distractible, so this stuff eats much
bigger chunks out of my ability to focus than it should. The good news is that
I’m not mad (blessed progress). But I am wigged out by the thought of the
post-op antibiotics she’ll need—we’ve already been through one bout of C-Dif—and
by concern about how even the lightest of general anesthesias will muck with her
brain. So my not-angry-ness is manifesting itself in major grumbling about the
time, which is really grumbling about my not having any more control over this
shit than my mother does.

I read a sweet-natured meme on FB the other day that was a sort of how-to list
for communicating with Alzheimer’s patients. It boiled down to “never get
frustrated, never argue, never remind, never take anything personally.” All well
and good, and maybe useful for professional caregivers (many of whom are saints,
I swear), but it isn’t terribly realistic for caregivers who have histories with
the patients (in this case, only children on whom said parent has focused her
life rather more intently than is technically considered healthy). And it was
about Alzheimer’s, not whatever weird mix of age and long-term MS scarring my
mother is dealing with, which is different even if I couldn’t tell you how. I
know there are many people who find this stage in their parents’ lives contains
a kind of sacredness; people who can focus on the cycle-of-life parts and let
the grubby, infuriating parts slide beneath their armature of kindness and
generosity. I’m not that sort of human. Truth be told, I don’t even know if I
want to be, no matter how much I envy the serenity that would offer.

It’s not news to anyone that death, illness, family, and the infinite combos of
the three are one of the most emphatic and profound locations where we confront
our inability to control much of anything. Nor is it news that the only thing we
can control in these situations is our own behavior—when we’re lucky. It just
all sucks. For me, using the language of sacredness about it feels like a weird
form of denial. But then, I’m not the sort of person who uses terms like
“passed” for “died.” We bury the dead, properly, not our emotions and

Memoir Writing Workshop: Pilgrims, Immigrants, and Travelers: in Mexico with Miriam Sagan

Memoir Writing Workshop: Pilgrims, Immigrants, and Travelers
with Miriam Sagan

Memoir is a way to express where we are, where we have been and where we are going. Both women and men are welcome to participate. Everyone has an important story to tell.

Arrive Sunday March 13, 2016 and depart Saturday, March 19, 2016.

This six-day intensive writing workshop uses memoir to position the self and understand our worlds. We’ll focus on themes related to life’s journeys, starting with roots and family stories. Using inspiration drawn from food, art, nature, politics and more, we’ll tell our own tales of culture, identity, change, loss and transformation.

To see more:


Call for Submissions: Very Short Tanka Prose

We have had several very short tanka prose accepted for issue 23 of Atlas Poetica, so we’d like to do a focus on it for the issue. Please send very short tanka prose for ATPO 23. We are also interested in articles relating to very short tanka prose.

Atlas Poetica 23 will publish this autumn.

For those who have asked, ATPO 22 will publish in the final week of August.


M. Kei
Editor, Atlas Poetica
A Journal of Poetry of Place in Contemporary Tanka


JUST A QUESTION from Miriam’s Well. Does anyone know much about very short tanka prose? Is it like one line haibun? Would you use only one tanka, or more?



People die, and gravestones are erected. Some of the first sculpture is funerary. Armies conquer, and huge triumphal arches mark city streets. As to the conquered, they often simply pass out of history, or not. The urge to memorialize might be private or political. The statues of dictators are pulled down by crowds in squares, or are so ancient they are left to stand, maybe missing an arm, or a head, towering over masses who don’t speak the same language these tyrants did, nor follow the same beliefs or customs. Obelisks list the names of the dead—whole farming towns in New England emptied of every young man who fought the Civil War.
The Holocaust has spawned a great deal of memorialization. Stumbling stones interrupt pavement (see below). Shoes stand without occupants.


This from Wikipedia, thanks to Michael Smith: The Shoes on the Danube Bank is a memorial in Budapest, Hungary. Conceived by film director Can Togay, he created it on the west bank of the Danube River with sculptor Gyula Pauer to honor the Jews who were killed by fascist Arrow Cross militiamen in Budapest during World War II. They were ordered to take off their shoes, and were shot at the edge of the water so that their bodies fell into the river and were carried away. It represents their shoes left behind on the bank.

And then there is Katrina. How to memorialize an event that essentially swept everything away? It’s like a memorial to Pompeii or Atlantis. But New Orleans is still there.

To see responses in three New Orleans Museums:


And as the article notes, things gain in context.


Stephanie Patton’s “It Will Happen” (2014).

Check Out VerseWrights

VerseWrights is a site just bursting with poetry, poets, and inspiration. I’m delighted to have my work appear there today. Here is a sample:

Full Circle

you fell from the sky
like a star in day time
ingot, meteor

were caught in a net
pinioned wings

and who was spotting you?
God, a pool of water, the abyss

To read the whole poem (inspired by a performance of Cirque de Soleil) and more, click here. Enjoy!

Stumbling Stones of Remembrance

The artist Gunter Demnig remembers the victims of National Socialism by installing commemorative brass plaques in the pavement in front of their last address of choice. There are now STOLPERSTEINE (lit. “stumbling stones or blocks”) in over 610 places in Germany as well as in Austria, Hungary, the Netherlands, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Norway and Ukraine.
Gunter Demnig cites the Talmud saying that “a person is only forgotten when his or her name is forgotten”. The Stolpersteine in front of the buildings bring back to memory the people who once lived here. Each “stone” begins with HERE LIVED… One “stone”. One name. One person.
Thanks to Elizabeth Jacobson who saw some of this amazing project. Her photograph below.


Thinking About A Haiku Path

I’ve been thinking a lot about poetry gardens recently. There aren’t very many, but if you know of one, please do tell me. A haiku path might be a good place to start. Outside of Japan, I know of only two–one in New Zealand and one at Gualala Arts Center 
Gualala, California
There is also one that will open soon in the Midwest.

Here are some images from the Gualala Haiku Stone Path:

JR better close



smcroppedPath looking west to GAC

Anyone have any thoughts as to how to do this in Santa Fe? I’ll be talking to the Botanical Garden about a temporary path–and I think I could find a permanent home at the south end of town. Ideas?